BRUGES (...and Brussels)
Hi and welcome to my latest travel update. I have just enjoyed a wonderful half rest over four nights in the city of Bruges. This is now equal tied with my favourite place alongside Florence. I have discovered I clearly have a kink for canals and quiet cobbled streets. The more you know.
But before I get to Bruges I have to tell you about Brussels because I must go in chronological order and Brussels was actually first. But it shouldn't take long, there's not a lot going on in Brussels.
So, I left hot sweaty Madrid and flew to nice cool ish Brussels. I arrived onto the tarmac directly (which always freaks me out because I like terminals - random fact) and navigated myself straight through to the metro system which was pretty simple to use.
I made it to my hostel which was actually situated along the river right near the centre of the city (perks!) and dropped off all my stuff in the room. As it was early ish evening at this point I thought I would have time to shower and stuff before searching for a grocery store. Much to my dismay Brussels is totally different to Spain and their grocery stores close early. I ended up settling for French Tacos, which is a random fast food place I found that essentially does wraps. It was literally a wrap.
I also got my first two cat-calls! I say this with joking enthusiasm because I was completely confused on both occasions. Either I suddenly became irresistible or there is a severe deficiency of women in Brussels because I am SO not high up enough on the attractive food chain to be yelled at in French from a moving car. Anyways, I went back to the hostel and crashed pretty hard because travel can take it out of you sometimes.
Between 11pm and 2am my hostel-mates showed up and from about 3am to 8am 90% of us experienced very little sleep as one guy serenaded us with his snoring. Earth shaking snoring. Hostel living I suppose.
On my first full day I found two free museums (one art - Wiertz Museum, and one history - European History Museum). I would recommend both completely. I also did a tour (as per usual) here are some pics:
So, Brussels is famous for Tin Tin, the Smurfs, the UN and a statue of a little boy peeing called Manneken Pis. The statue is tiny but you can buy mini statues, candles, artwork, bags and mugs with the picture of it if you're in desperate need. I just found the whole thing rather funny. But what I really want to talk about is the Grand-Place of Brussels. It's this big square with all these big buildings including the City Hall (the one with the steeple above).
This one has a funny story. You see the City Hall building is actually asymmetrical. Completely unintentionally asymmetrical. The left side is longer than the right - can you see? But that's not the worst part. Take a look at this:
See any issues?
It's not even centred over the door.
This naturally made me so uncomfortable. Apparently, according to a legend, the architect who designed it hadn't watched it being built so when he came to visit he was so horrified he climbed all the way to the top and jumped off. It is a stark design flaw when you look at it. But from afar, you'd never know.
After my tour I headed back to the hostel contemplating the fact that I was pretty sure I'd seen everything Brussels had to offer even though I had another full day. I ended up making friends who two guys from my room and we went and ate poke bowls and drank some beer in a beer garden they'd found. I went to bed with higher spirits then my walk back to the hostel.
Regardless, the next day I chilled out completely. I only left the hostel to eat lunch in a café nearby and even then it was a maybe 200m walk. I just couldn't be bothered and the city really didn't entice me that much.
My bus to Bruges was booked for 7pm. I ended up leaving the hostel at 5:30pm because I get anxious about missing things and it's not like I was doing anything productive anyway. But it is sure lucky I did!
Between the first tram being late by 25mins and the second tram stopping just before the station due to an "incident" I arrived to the bus stop at 6:55pm. Talk about panic! But I needn't have worried because when I asked if I'd missed the bus the man calmly said "oh no it's about 90 mins late at the moment."
I don't think I've ever felt more relief at something being delayed.
By the time I arrived in Bruges, found my airbnb and set my things down in the room it was getting close to 11pm but regardless I set up my laptop and re-watched for the umpteeth time the film 'In Bruges'.
If you haven't seen the movie you might want to skim the rest of the post because I'll be talking about it and showing some clips.
I love the movie and it (along with some high praise from my sister) was the entire reason I decided to visit Bruges. I made it my halfway rest stop with a full stay of four nights which is my longest within the Europe leg of my trip. It just seemed like an ideal place to relax and recover.
Boy was I right. It's hard to describe the beauty but there is something about walking those cobbled streets or strolling along one of the many canals that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I really really loved my time here.
Here are some pictures before I tell you what I got up to:
On my first full day in Bruges I spent the morning getting lost in the streets intentionally trying to disorientate myself so that I could navigate back to the centre square easily. As it started to heat up I booked my visit to the Belfry, the bell tower in the centre of Bruges. I climbed all 366 steps to the top and was treated with the beautiful view of Bruges from above along with being serenaded by the 47 carillon bells weighing a whopping 27 tonnes in total.
The bells are really incredible and can be a whole range of sounds (apparently next year they're getting the Game of Thrones theme song!) Here is a snippet of the sound:
Recognise the song?
The climb though is not for the faint hearted, which makes this scene in the movie even funnier:
Because I struggled, like look how narrow the steps towards the top are:
My heart was fluttering pretty hard coming back down as I tried not to imagine myself flying down all 366 steps on my ass.
After the tower I had lunch basically where Colin Farrell is sitting in the scene above and watched a parade go past (random but pretty cool!)
I then joined up with an afternoon tour and explored half of the city with a very humorous guide named Steve who also doubled as a balloon artist, a skill he showed off at various times during the tour. I had no idea Bruges had been such a key trade point throughout history. I hadn't really known anything at all about Bruges.
After the tour me and a fellow Australian I met on the tour jumped on a canal ride (amazing!) and then had a beer tasting at the Beer Museum where we tried four (large) beers for only 10 euro. Bargain! I then half stumbled back to my airbnb and packed it in for an earlyish night.
My next few days were relatively uneventful (which was the idea). I checked out the Groeninge Museum which also featured in the film:
I also stopped in and saw Jesus' blood in the Basilica of the Holy Blood and then went on a night tour of Bruges where I got to see the other half of Bruges that differed from the day tour.
I made a number of friends including a kiwi who is now living in London and made some very convincing arguments for me moving... we drank a number of beers curtesy of Brian and his wife from the US (happy birthday Brian!) and finished up around 1:30am. Cue another stumble home to the airbnb situation.
On my final full day in Bruges I truly did nothing. I woke up late and went for another stroll around the city before setting up shop along one of the canals, doing some writing, listening to some tunes and reading for a few hours in the sunshine. In the evening Khyati (my kiwi friend) and I met up again for some beer tasting - was terrible! - and dinner before parting ways.
I can not express enough how wonderful Bruges was.
I would recommend it to anyone visiting Belgium or looking for a beautiful historical city to relax in for a while. I could easily spend another week here. But you know me - this trip is go go go - and I'm back to going!
Till next time,